Biometric Palm Reading: The Future of Patient Identification?
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Vascular recognition provides a false acceptance rate of just 8 in 10 million.
Protecting patient identity from would-be thieves reached a new level of importance late last year when the Federal Trade Commission announced it would require financial institutions and creditors—including hospitals—to implement programs for detecting and preventing identity theft.
Hospital executives at ValleyCare Health System in Pleasanton, CA, knew that beginning this month, instances of identity theft could result not only in a loss of revenue, but also in potential government fines if processes to prevent it were not put place. Rogel B. Reyes, director of patient access at ValleyCare, says it was while the hospital was looking at ways to mitigate that risk that he was introduced to Fujitsu's PalmSecure palm-vein biometrics system at an industry conference. Shortly thereafter, ValleyCare became the first hospital on the West Coast and third in the nation—along with BayCare Health System in Tampa, FL, and Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, NC—to implement the technology.
"We saw it as a way to streamline our patient registration and identification processes while ensuring electronic medical records and patient privacy are protected," says Reyes. It also helped the hospital comply with the FTC's new Red Flag program, he says.
By linking PalmSecure with another technology, PatientSecure from Fujitsu partner, HT Systems, the hospital staff is also able to accurately retrieve a given patient's electronic medical records during check-in, eliminating the potential for human error when it comes to inputting data, says Reyes.
Palm-vein pattern recognition technology, also referred to as "vascular recognition," uses near-infrared light to capture a patient's palm-vein pattern to generate a biometric template that is compared with a database of enrolled users to make a match. The underlying vascular pattern recognition technology has a false acceptance rate of only 0.00008%, meaning that only about one in 1.25 million are wrongly identified.
Vascular recognition is the only other biometric technology on par with iris scanning in terms of accuracy, according to the International Biometrics Group, which evaluates biometrics products through comparative testing.
Though palm-vein recognition technology is significantly less expensive than iris scanning technology, it's still not cheap. Reyes says ValleyCare leases about 35 palm systems for its two Bay Area locations for about $6,000 per month. He says that measuring financial ROI is difficult, but he's seen "great increases" in patient satisfaction.
Currently the hospital is working with HT Systems to devise a way to identify patients who arrive unconscious at the emergency room. "We want to reach a point where all we have to do is scan the palm, enter whether the patient is male or female, and, if they are registered, their record will be brought up on the computer screen," he says. Presently, as a security measure, the palm system requires third-party users (or anyone who is not the patient) to know either the date of birth or name to perform a search. For now, Reyes says the technology's current capabilities have already exceeded his expectations. "It's not invasive, it's more hygienic than fingerprint biometric systems, and its accuracy cannot be beat," he says.
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